Poland, Hungary and Romania want to divide the territory of Ukraine. NATO supports these demands, and Russia is the sole guarantee of Ukraine’s survival. At the same time, Ukraine has no historical right to exist as a state and has not even “registered” its borders with the UN.
All these contradictory and even mutually exclusive claims are propagated insistently and simultaneously by the Kremlin. Although they are not new, the emphasis on them has increased since the Russian invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
In fact, as early as 2008-2009, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the topic of dividing Ukraine in meetings with then-Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski claimed in an interview with Politico magazine in 2014. The words of Sikorski, however, cannot be confirmed, because neither Donald Tusk himself admits the existence of such conversations, nor does the documents from these meetings mention anything similar.
However, since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, signs have emerged to support these claims. In the same year, the then deputy speaker of the State Duma and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, sent a letter to Poland, Romania and Hungary with a proposal to divide the Ukrainian territories. Zhirinovsky’s offer was not taken seriously by any of those countries.
Meanwhile, Russian sites and Russian social media profiles are actively sharing various maps depicting the possible partition of Ukrainian lands. Poland is the most accused of such plans, whereas Hungary and Romania are being pointed out to a lesser extent.
In March 2022, articles appeared in the Russian media accompanied by a map pretending to show the plans of Poland, Hungary and Romania to invade Ukrainian territories. According to the publications, the map was provided by the former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Illia Volodymyrovych Kiva. Shortly before the publications appeared, he was suspended from the Ukrainian parliament for his pro-Russian statements after the start of the war.
Factcheck.bg already wrote about a manipulated photo with redrawn borders of Ukraine, which was claimed to be from the broadcast of a Polish TV channel.
At the same time, Putin himself claims that the western Ukrainian territories are lands that have been stolen from Poland, Hungary and Romania. In his address on February 21, 2022, when he recognized the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, Putin referred to Ukraine’s post-1939 borders as the “historical” territories of its neighboring countries. In fact, we are talking about lands acquired by the mentioned countries only after the end of the First World War. The process of redrawing the borders ended partially with the end of World War II.
In December last year, Putin again warned that Polish nationalists wanted to return “their historical territories that Ukraine received after World War II.” According to the Russian president, Russia is the only guarantee of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The former Prime Minister of Russia and leader of the United Russia party, Dmitry Medvedev, welcomed his leader. In May 2022, Medvedev “warned” of Warsaw’s aim to reclaim historical lands from Ukraine. In July 2022, he shared a map on his Telegram channel, which he said was made by Western experts and presented the prepared future territorial division of Ukraine.
In some versions of the “partition plan” of Ukraine, Russian officials include the US and NATO.
The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, Segrey Naryshkin, has accused Poland and the US of planning to seize parts of western Ukraine. No evidence has been presented to support these claims. However, this did not stop Naryshkin from continuing to spread similar claims in the following months. On July 12, 2022, he said that Warsaw was trying to “deny its plans” because they had been revealed by Russia’s foreign intelligence, including himself.
Other Russian statesmen have also spoken out about Poland’s “predatory plans” in Ukraine, including presidential adviser Vladimir Medinsky and Russia’s ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov.
Just a month after the start of the war, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talked about the “plans” of Poland and NATO to return Ukraine’s borders to their pre-1939 form.
At the same time, “evidence” of NATO’s involvement in the “plot” to divide Ukraine appeared in the Russian media. In an article from March 23, 2022, a statement by Polish politician and leader of the right-wing conservative party “Law and Justice” Jaroslaw Kaczynski is quoted, according to whom it is necessary to send a NATO peacekeeping mission to Ukraine. And this, according to the articles, proves the existence of the plan and the Alliance’s support for its implementation.
In the same article, it is claimed that military equipment has been accumulated along the Romanian-Ukrainian border, with which Romania intends to invade Ukraine and take its “share”. A year later, there is still no evidence for this claim.
Hungary’s involvement in the “conspiracy” is “proven” by the claim that the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban asking for his support and the organization of a referendum on the accession of Transcarpathia to Hungary. Our investigation was unable to find evidence of either the letter or the existence of plans to organize such a referendum.
Based on this “evidence”, the article concludes that by seizing parts of the western and southwestern territories of Ukraine, the NATO countries will create “Idlib-2” – a terrorist enclave that will become a constant terrorist and military threat to controlled by Russia territories in eastern Ukraine and neighboring Belarus.
A different line of reasoning is found in other Russian publications. For example, that Poles are motivated to reclaim territories from Western Ukraine because they still remember the atrocities of the Volhynian massacre.
The Volhynian Massacre took place in German-occupied Poland during World War II in 1943. The mass killings of ethnic Poles were carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Nothing in Poland’s contemporary actions, however, shows that this historical event has had an impact on its position on the war – Poland is one of the states most actively supporting Ukraine.
The Kremlin uses every opportunity to find “evidence” for its theses. Local nationalist politicians are particularly suitable for this purpose.
For example, Laszlo Toroczkai, founder of the movement “Our Homeland” (Mi Hazánk Mozgalom), defined by Hungarian media as far-right. In December 2022, he met with the Polish ambassador to Hungary at the Polish embassy in Budapest. The meeting caused sharp reactions in Poland and Ukraine and was condemned by Polish and Ukrainian public figures.
A month earlier, Toroczkai congratulated Poland on its independence day with the following message on Twitter: “God bless Poland! Let’s meet again at the Polish-Hungarian border!” The congratulation was accompanied by a black-and-white photo of Polish and Hungarian border guards shaking hands at the Uzhok pass.
Poland and Hungary gained a common border in 1939, when Hungary captured Transcarpathia. Today this territory is located in Ukraine.
Toroczkai’s claims for territorial expansion of Hungary are not limited to Ukraine. The leader of “Our Homeland” also claims parts of Slovakia, Romania and Serbia.
There is also a Bulgarian contribution to the repertoire of claims against Ukraine – for example, that there are originally Bulgarian lands in Ukraine that should become autonomous regions or belong to Bulgaria, or that Ukrainians are Bulgarians.
Two days after the Russian attack on Ukraine, on February 26,2022, in the program “Benovska pita”, the chairman of “Vazrazhdane” Kostadin Kostadinov expresses the opinion that there should be a Bulgarian autonomous region in Ukraine:
“We have two territories that are densely populated with Bulgarians, the greater part is in the southern part of Odesa region, Bessarabia, or Southern Bessarabia. And the smaller part are the Bulgarians in Tavriya, the Azov region, around Mariupol. Will we have our own Bulgarian autonomous region there? Or it, because together with the Bulgarians an overwhelming majority of Russians live there, it will be included in one part, let’s say, of Novorussia, which will be created in the belt from Odessa to Kharkiv, that will depend only and only on us. But will we have statesmen to ask this question? I’m telling you now – no. And this will be another act of national treason.”
According to the 2001 census in Ukraine, in the mentioned Odesa region, Ukrainians are 1.5 million people or 62.8% of the entire population of the region. Russians reach 508 thousand or 20.7%, and Bulgarians – 150 thousand or 6.1%. Although some settlements in the region are densely populated with Bulgarians, their number is nevertheless insignificant against the background of the ethnic distribution in the entire Odesa region. Another 50,000 ethnic Bulgarians live in the rest of Ukraine, according to the 2001 census.
Another false thesis is spreading in social networks – that Ukraine was created by Bulgarians or that Ukrainians are actually assimilated ethnic Bulgarians. Historical facts do not support such claims – Ukrainians represent an independent ethnic group, different from Bulgarians. Russia also maintains the thesis that Ukrainians are not a separate ethnic group, but part of the Russian one, which is not true.
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova